From the Israel-Hamas war to the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, and beyond, it has been a terrible month of violence and grief. “Evening’s Evening,” Crystalle Lacouture’s exhibition at Praise Shadows Art Gallery, is a balm. “The gentlest of shows,” I scribbled in my notebook as I walked through.
Loss and care are at the heart of Lacouture’s art. Her mother, Marlene Adelmann, received a terminal cancer diagnosis in the early days of the pandemic and had to limit in-person contact. That’s when the artist began a daily devotional practice of drawing in gouache and colored pencil on paper targets from shooting ranges. These small, sunny-colored, mostly symmetrical abstractions read like sacred geometry — full of shapes and patterns that may recur in nature and religious symbolism. On each one, Lacouture inscribes “MAMA,” a murmuring mantra of love.
Adelmann died at 67 in 2022; Lacoutoure’s drawing practice continues.
An artist might be attracted to the mandala-like targets for formal reasons. But in the United States, guns are a loaded subject. “Half Mast (21 for Uvalde),” a three-by-seven grid of “MAMA” drawings, celebrates the lives of the 19 children and two adults killed in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May 2022.
It looks like a patchwork quilt, each square a unique mind-bending geometric pattern. Yet the paper targets are unmistakable. The sheets read “SCORE KEEPER” and have places to note a bullet’s weight and a rifle’s caliber. Lacouture’s installation is like a baby blanket draped over an evil eye.
She unfurls sacred abstractions on a larger scale in paintings such as “Blue Mask.” Patterns of fans, stripes, and dotted lines draw the eye inward toward the center. The artist’s hand shines; here paintings are not perfect geometries, but a human’s gestures toward something larger than herself. Lacouture charts a day’s arc in a gorgeous series of ambitious woodblock prints in daringly subtle tones. Each print (“First Light,” “Highest Sun”) could be an object of meditation.
For Lacouture, who has three children, art-making, familial love, and spiritual practice seem intertwined. The artist’s two belled-and-beaded works, “Epistle” and “House Jewelry,” can be handled and jingled. They are domestic blessings: “Epistle,” which hangs in arcs from the ceiling, has a message in binary code hidden in its outer strands: Bless this house; inside and out.
CRYSTALLE LACOUTURE: EVENING’S EVENING
At Praise Shadows Art Gallery, 313A Harvard St., Brookline, through Nov. 26. 617-487-5427 www.praiseshadows.com